Recently in Competing With Purpose Category

Clay Feagler, a freshman on the men's golf team, has posted three top-10 finishes and four top-20 results in four spring tournaments. He tells us about how he's made such a strong improvement between fall and spring, and about his time on the men's golf team so far in general:

Clay  Feagler

Q: You've had a really great spring season. Did you think you would make such an impact, this early on, as a freshman?

A: Yeah, I thought I could make a big impact, actually. I thought I could make a huge impact in the fall but unfortunately it didn't happen that way. I just wasn't comfortable with balancing school and golf. Also when it's your first semester you tend to be overwhelmed and I definitely was.

Q: There's been a big improvement and difference for you already between your fall and spring season. What made this difference? What did you work on to get better?

A: I think the biggest things that have made a difference are just playing my game and limiting mistakes on the golf course. My game has always been accuracy and during the fall I kind of strayed away from that. Also, when I was out playing golf, I would tend to think about assignments for school and just get distracted. The things I worked on were mostly mental and nothing mechanics-wise. I just really worked on having a calm demeanor on the golf course and not getting flustered.

Q: What's been your favorite moment so far throughout your whole freshman season?

A: My favorite moment so far was playing in front of the Pepperdine fans at North Ranch Country Club. Also, to win there in front of the people watching made it extra special. 

Q: What are your personal goals for the rest of the season?

A: My personal goal for the rest of the season is to finish every tournament for the rest of the year inside the top 15. If I sneak a top five or a win, then that's great.

Q: What are the team goals for the rest of the season?

A: Our team goals are to be inside the top 10 before the season is over and to win our conference.

Q: Why did you choose Pepperdine both to come to school to and in terms of the golf team?

A: I chose Pepperdine as a school because the coaches were great, the school was great, the size of the class was the perfect size for me and who would not like that view!

Q: What have you enjoyed most about the team so far?

A: The things I like most about the team are just the people that are on it. We have a great group of guys on it and having those guys care for you and root for you is just great.

Q: What do you like and enjoy about the coaches?

A: They are here to help you with your game and to get you to the next level. You can also go to them to talk about anything with them. They really care for you and that's what great coaches do.

Three Pepperdine women's volleyball players, Tarah Wylie, Hana Lishman and Jasmine Gross, were recently invited to try out for the U.S. Women's National Team in Colorado Springs. They shared with us their experience at the tryouts and updated us on what the team is doing in the coming months:

Jasmine  Gross  Hana  Lishman  Tarah  Wylie

Q: You all were recently received invite to try out for the U.S. Women's National Team. How did you all feel to be invited?

Wylie: It was amazing to know that Pepperdine would help us grow in our sport through this opportunity.

Lishman:  The most exciting part of getting the invitation was hearing and knowing that Pepperdine was there to support us with this awesome experience. Pepperdine gave us and allowed us to have this opportunity to continue our career and grow in our sport. 

Gross: I felt excited and grateful that Pepperdine was able to give me the opportunity to go after my goals and they were supportive in that.

Q: Describe the experience from day one through the tryout.

Wylie: We had four tryout sessions throughout three days. One on the first day, two on the second, and one on the third. It was mostly competition-based except for the first 30 minutes of every session where we got to warm up by positions. One of the coolest parts of this experience was having the opportunity to talk to other players from the West Coast Conference. I have friends on some of the teams we play against, but not many, and it was really special to form relationships with people I normally only see across the net.

Lishman: There were different sessions throughout the day. I was in the 6 o'clock session, while Tarah and Jasmine were in the 4 o'clock. While waiting, I walked around the training center, explored and met new girls from many different schools. On that first day of the tryout, we did some quick warm-up drills for passing, serving and hitting. Then the last hour or so of the session was playing games and wash drills. Throughout the entire tryouts, each session was about the same. Another cool thing about this tryout was meeting new people from other schools that we wouldn't normally come across.  Also, becoming good friends with the girls on teams that are in our conference was really fun. Normally, because we play against each other, we would be "rivals," but at the tryouts, that was set aside and it was very cool getting to know them and become good friends.

Gross: We got off the plane and went straight to the training camp, where we got room assignments and meal cards. One of my roommates played for BYU and the other one played for Michigan. Then we went to our first session where they separated each player by position using different colored shirts. Then we got into playing for about two hours. Then we went to dinner, took showers and got ready for the next day of tryouts. We did some skills like serving, passing and some hitting lines. Then we just competed by doing different scrimmage games. I had played against and with many of the girls throughout my club career. I played in the Under Armour All American game my senior year, so most of the girls who played in that match with me were at the tryout as well. The volleyball world is very small so all three of us knew many people.

Q: How did it make you feel to try out for a spot to compete on the national team, or on one of the three collegiate teams?

Lishman: While traveling there, the nerves were building up because I was very excited and anxious for the weekend.  I had no idea what to expect.  As each session went on, the nerves went away and the motivation and passion as to why I love and play this sport came pouring out.  Realizing I was there at the Olympic Training Center, trying out for the National Team was overwhelming, but a dream come true. 

Gross: It was a great experience, but it really humbled me by showing me how much work I still have left to do to reach my goal of being on the national team.

Q: Give us a final thought on your experience in Colorado Springs.

Wylie: It was our first experience with USA Volleyball and I know we were all excited to play and be noticed. It was a great opportunity for all of us and I am grateful that we get to grow our careers together.

Lishman: Being given the chance to represent my school, where I'm from, my coaches, and even my family was a great experience and opportunity.

Gross:  It was a great experience and I am hoping to try out again in the next few years

Q: You lost one of your assistant coaches a few weeks ago. Do you have any words of encouragement for Alex Dunphy, who has joined Minnesota's program?

Wylie: Alex Dunphy was one of the biggest reasons I came to Pepperdine and I have the upmost respect for her. She is a wonderfully talented coach and an even better person, so I know she will do nothing but be a star at Minnesota. They will soon figure out, if they haven't already, what an incredible asset she is for any program.

Lishman: Alex Dunphy was and still is an awesome coach. She knew how and when to be fun, but also knew how to be serious and get work done. She definitely made my freshman year experience memorable and manageable because she was constantly there to help me with not only volleyball, but school and life as well. I know she will do great things at Minnesota just as she did here at Pepperdine. I appreciate all she has done for my team and I, and I am very excited to see her accomplish new things!

Gross: I have already told Alex this, but we all miss her a lot. We know she has a great opportunity in Minnesota and we are all very excited to see her do big things.

Q: Now, how did you react learning that a Pepperdine Hall of Famer and former All-American, Julie (Rubenstein) Bennett, would be joining the coaching staff?

Wylie: When I first learned about Julie Bennett coming back to Pepperdine to coach us, I was excited to learn from a great player and Hall of Famer. Now I consider her a friend and she fits in with our team so well. I am looking forward to our time together!

Lishman: When I heard we had a new assistant, I, alongside my teammates, were thrilled. When we found out who it was, we were even more stoked because some, if not most, of us knew Julie and knew she was a great player here at Pepperdine.  With the time that I have had with her so far, she has already helped me in many ways with volleyball, and I am looking forward to more practices and seasons with her. 

Gross:  We are still in the process of getting to know Julie, and she has been so awesome. She brings new and helpful feedback as well as a great personality, so we are super stoked to have her.

Q: What are you doing in the off-season?

Wylie: The off-season is a busy time of the year for our team right now as we are currently in 20 hours. We are working hard every day to improve our team physically and mentally. It's an honor to be growing closer with my teammates every day and seeing them grow as people and players.

Lishman: Off-season is our big training season. We have practice at 6:30 a.m. every morning, then lifting or conditioning following that.  I really like spring training because it is a chance for our team to get strong, practice hard, improve and do whatever we can to prepare for our upcoming season, especially summer. 

Gross: Right now we are practicing every day from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we have lifting. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have conditioning. We have a few spring matches as well. We played CSUN at Pepperdine a few weekends ago and we play at USC for a spring tournament on April 1st.

Q: The summer is coming up soon! Do you have any big plans?

Wylie: This summer our team is going on a European Tour and I could not be any more excited. This will be a summer for the books. I get to play volleyball while traveling the world with my best friends and I am looking forward to seeing how our team matches up to the international teams we will compete against.

Lishman: This summer, our team will be traveling to Europe to play some professional teams.  We leave May 22, and are going to many different cities and countries such as Milan, Venice, Czech Republic, Austria and Slovenia. We are all very excited for this trip because many of us haven't been out of the country yet and this is a great time for our team to come together and go through this life-changing experience that some of us may never have the chance to do again.

Gross: We are going to Europe as a team to play at the end of May. This is very exciting for us and we are really looking forward to not only expanding our view on the world, but expanding our volleyball skills as well.

Talya Holenstein is a freshman on the women's track team. Already in her career, she set the school's 400-meter record in just her second outdoor meet (since re-broken by Izzy Connell) and Holenstein was part of relay teams that set both the 4x100 and the 4x400 records. She reflects on what this was like for her and how her time with Pepperdine has been so far overall:

Talya  Holenstein

Q: You've set some records pretty early on in your career. How has that experience been for you?

A: I would definitely say that being a part of the relays and getting to break the school records in both of them has been the highlight of my season thus far. Breaking personal records is great, but there is something to be said for joining together with three other girls and getting to do it together. I was especially happy being able to contribute to this goal for two of our senior girls who have been wanting to break the relay records since they were freshmen. I'm glad I got to be a part of that with them.  

Q: What's it like as a freshman doing so well so early? Did you think you had a shot at school records when you came on?

A: Coming to Pepperdine, I knew that I would fit in well with the program and could have a shot at the school records during my time here. I've been really pleased with what I've been able to accomplish thus far, a lot of which stems from having strong upper-class runners who push me every day in practice and set the bar high.   

Q: What's your background with running?

A: Running and the sport of track and field have been a part of my entire life. Both of my parents ran in college. My mom was an 800 runner at UC Irvine and my dad a decathlete at Portland State University. So growing up, it was always a big part of our family, and I grew to love the sport as well. 

Q: What led you to come to Pepperdine?

A: I came to Pepperdine for several reasons, one of which was to live and train in warm weather for a change (I'm from Portland, Oregon). But besides the climate and location, I really appreciated the small community Pepperdine had to offer, which was something I was looking for in a college. 

Q: What do you like about the track team?

A: My favorite thing about our team is the crazy dynamic and atmosphere we have. We are definitely a team that jokes around a lot, meaning there is never a dull moment. When you spend so much time together it's important to keep things fun, and we do a really good job of that. 

Q: What are your goals and hopes for running, as you move forward?

A: Moving forward, my short-term goals are to just keep working my times down, especially in the 400. If I could get to a low 56 by the end of the season, that would be a really good start for me to work off of for the next three years. I also really hope to lower our school records in both of the relays before the season is up because I know we are capable, it's just a matter of all the working parts coming together. 

Q: What are your goals for school?

A: As of right now, I am an undecided major, so one of my goals is to figure out a career path during my time here. But in the meantime, I just hope to continue to get good grades and put in the effort at school as my main priority.

Senior outfielder Matt Gelalich tells us about the non-conference season, preparing for West Coast Conference play and his post-baseball aspirations. The Waves host three games this weekend, two against Grand Canyon and one versus Long Beach State.
Matt  Gelalich

Q: The season is off and running, with the last non-conference series this weekend. How has the non-conference season been going for the Waves?

A: I think it has been going well. Probably not as great as we would have liked, but we have a lot of promise. There is a ton of talent on this team, and we just need to put it all together, and I think that we will be fine.

Q: What are some of the adjustments that need to be made before WCC play begins?

A: I think it is a matter of just firing on all cylinders. There have been games where our pitchers have been unhittable, but we couldn't hit, and there have been games where we are hitting well, and our pitchers haven't been as good. We just need to get both sides of the ball on the same page in the same game, and we will be off and running.

Q: How important is non-conference play to the team?

A: It's huge. We have a lot of tough non-conference opponents on our schedule this year, and at the end of the year, if you don't win conference, how you play against non-conference teams is what gives you your RPI and an at-large bid to a regional. We know this, and we make sure we take it extremely seriously.

Q: Is WCC play something the team looks forward to with extra hunger? Or do you try to keep the games as just another series?

A: It is definitely something we look forward to. We think that we are the best team in the conference, and we like going out to the other teams and proving it. It is going to be a fun year for sure.

Q: Are there any specific series that the team is looking forward to?

A: We always look forward to the San Diego series. They are always really good, we are always really good, and the games are some of the most competitive of the entire year. Plus, we always like to beat them. They are definitely one of the biggest rivalries we have.

Q: This being your senior year, is there a little extra weight on the way the season plays out?

A:  I don't think so, I am just trying to have fun. This might be my last year playing the game, so I just want to leave it all on the field and have no regrets looking back on my career.

Q: With draft implications, are you looking to play ball after college, or are you going to hang up the spikes and move to post-baseball life?

A: I would love to keep playing if I get the opportunity to. That is something that will play out how it plays out, and if I am lucky enough to have the opportunity, I want to make the most of it, but if not, I am fine with ending my career as a Pepperdine Wave.

Q: Speaking of the post-baseball, what, when baseball finally does end, is your plan? Grad school?

A: I am going to be applying to dental school this summer if I don't get to continue playing. Hopefully that works out, because along with playing baseball, I have wanted to be a dentist ever since I was little. Regardless of the outcome of baseball, I know that I will be happy doing what I love doing.

Freshman RHP Wil Jensen has begun his first year off strong and has earned the role as the Waves' Sunday starting pitcher. He speaks about being a first-year student-athlete on the baseball team and at Pepperdine, along with the challenges that come along with that:

Wil  Jensen

Q: As a freshman, you came in and were immediately being put into a starting role. What has that been like?

A: It was definitely unexpected, but I have been super happy to have the chance to come in and show them what I have to offer, and hopefully I get the chance to continue to do so.

Q: What were the nerves like in the first couple outings, and how did you overcome them?

A: To be honest, I'm not sure if I truly overcame them, but rather I tried to use them as a motivating factor rather than a hindrance.

Q: How has the transition from high school to college been athletically?

A: With pitching, your mistakes hurt you a whole lot more in college. If you miss your spot, the hitters will really take advantage of you, where in high school, I had a little more leeway with the mistakes that I made.

Q: Has the transition academically been as easy as athletically?

A: Pepperdine is definitely a tough school academically. There is definitely way more work than in high school, and the work is more vigorous. It is hard, but still fun at the same time.

Q: As a freshman, you are obviously going to be here for at least a couple years. What are your goals for this year, your first in college baseball?

A: My goals this year as a freshman are to keep my ERA below 5. I definitely think that is reasonable and attainable. I also want to help the team make a regional, and then a Super Regional as well.

Q: Why did you choose to come to Pepperdine to play baseball?

A: I chose Pepperdine for two very specific people: pitching coach Rolando Garza, and strength and conditioning coach Stew Gonzales. Those two individuals together made Pepperdine the best place for me to come and improve. Those two coaches along with the academic reputation of the school made it an easy choice.

Q: Being from Utah, what have been both the hardest and easiest parts of coming to school here?

A: When I first moved to college, I didn't think that being away from home was going to affect me as much as it does. Not being able to see family is tough. However, meeting the people that I have and making the personal growth has made coming to Pepperdine completely worth it.

Delaney Knudsen, a senior on the women's beach volleyball team, has a great track record. She was part of the 2014 AVCA national championship team, helped lead the team to win the inaugural 2016 West Coast Conference Tournament crown and is a three-time Pepperdine Scholar-Athlete. With the season now here, Delaney talks about what she's looking forward to and how her four years on the team has been:

Delaney  Knudsen

Q: Since you're so close to the start of the season what are you looking forward to most?

A: I am really looking forward to competition. There is a special feeling when you get to actually compete and represent your school that is impossible to recreate in practice and I can't wait for it.

Q: How does it feel to be heading into your senior year as a Wave?

A: It's a very unique feeling to be in my senior year. I feel like just yesterday I was a freshman because the time has flown, but at the same time I know that I have grown and learned so much over the past four years that have made me a very different person!

Q: What are you looking forward to and most excited about as you head into your senior year on the team?

A: I am definitely most excited about the team we have this season. We have a lot of new girls and the dynamic on our team is just amazing this year. It's been awesome grinding with them all of fall and preseason, and I'm excited to take on all the challenges and victories of this season with all of them.

Q: How is the team playing so far?

A: I'm stoked at how everyone is playing this year! The level of hard work and competitive drive has been so high and we've all seen a lot of improvement. It's been a very motivating and rewarding year as far as training goes and I can't wait to see how that translates when the season comes.

Q: Was there a lot of playing in the off-season to prepare for the upcoming season?

A: We have done a lot of competing this off-season to keep us prepared for the season, notably more than in previous years, and it has been so great. We compete in a variety of different formats, but it keeps everyone fired up and working hard and it's been a major contributor to the motivation I feel on our team.

Q: You have lots of new faces on the team this year -- how are they fitting in?

A: I honestly could not have asked for a better group of newcomers this year. Both our freshmen and the transfers we got have fit in perfectly with our team. They each added their own unique sense of humor or fire to the mix and have only improved the team dynamic and culture.

Q: How are they changing the overall team dynamic? What's it been like?

A: I think that the addition of some new fifth-year transfers has been awesome because they bring the high standards that they have learned over their careers at other colleges that keep us accountable, but they also have this attitude of humble hard work, being new to our program, that is an amazing example to the rest of us too. Our freshmen are new to the standards and challenges of being a student-athlete, but they have all embraced it with 100% commitment and it has been so awesome and inspiring to see their improvement over the past few months. 

Q: What is it like to have Zuma Beach as a home court? How is it different and what do you like about it?

A: I love Zuma Beach! I could not ask for a better home court. It's absolutely gorgeous every single day, and with a 2-6 p.m. practice block we are usually cleaning up the courts as the sun sets and it's just beautiful. Weather is a huge factor playing on the beach as opposed to the man-made courts that other schools have. It's a huge advantage to be able to train in all the elements when they come, and to still have a handful of perfect days too.

Q: What's your favorite memory with the team?

A: I think my favorite memory with this team so far was bonding over our fall conditioning tests. The format of our workout was such that everyone had to be giving their maximum effort, and it was done in two waves so there was always someone cheering you on. It was really cool to have the opportunity to push my teammates to reach their goals and to also feel their support while I was working my hardest to reach mine. It set a high standard of mutual support and effort for the rest of the off-season that has been met over and over again.

Q: What's your favorite memory of playing so far?

A: My favorite memory playing so far has to be winning a national championship my freshman year. Nothing compares to that feeling and I'm going to do everything I can to help my team earn that again this year.

Redshirt junior first baseman Ben Rodriguez had a massive opening weekend for the Pepperdine baseball team, going 4-for-9 with two home runs in the first three games vs. St. Joseph's. He talks about his confidence at the plate, his belief in the team this year and about the trip the team will make to Texas during spring break. The Texas trip will consist of a three-game series against Texas A&M, a Tuesday game against Sam Houston State and a three-game series against Rice University.
Ben  Rodriguez

Q: You guys had a big sweep of St. Joseph's this past weekend to open up the season. How big is it to start the season off that way?

A: This is the first time that we have won on opening day in the four years that I have been here, so it is a big deal to get our team rolling with some wins, especially going into the stretch of baseball that we are about to go into. It is good to have that kind of confidence going into that big trip.

Q: You had a big weekend yourself. What made you so comfortable at the plate?

A: Just simplifying the game. Looking for quality pitches to hit, get the barrel of the bat on it, and slowing the game down. It is so important to stick to your own game plan and know what you are good at without trying to do everything. If you stick to your strengths, you are going to have success.

Q: Now that Brad Anderson and Manny Jefferson are gone, do you feel that you have any added roles, and trying to produce some extra power for the team?

A: No, not at all. Our depth, especially with power, is unbelievable. I think that everybody wants to get involved, and I would love to lead the charge, but we have so many bats, that it is not just on me, by any means.

Q: Who are some of the guys on the team that will be able to step into that role of bringing a little extra power to the team alongside you?

A: I think that everyone on the team can step into that role. This is one of the most talented teams that I have ever played for. We are just so deep at every position. Even at the top of the order, Quincy (McAfee) had one this weekend, (Matt) Gelalich is a strong, strong dude. And then getting to the middle of the order, (Jordan) Qsar and (Austin) Bernard are some big-time bats. We have a long season, and as the games come and the guys get more and more comfortable, I think that you are going to see guys step up and hit some bombs, especially in the middle of the order.

Q: Looking ahead, you have a big trip out to Texas. How important is this trip for the team?

A: It's very important. Something Coach Cooper (Fouts) told us yesterday really rang true. He said that we are all college baseball players at heart, and going into this week, if you love college baseball, you have to love this trip. We go to A&M and to Rice, which are two big-time perennial winning teams. It is definitely a chance to measure ourselves against a quality of baseball that we probably won't see again until the postseason.

Q: What are the team's expectations for the trip?

A: We definitely have high expectations. We have a winning culture in our clubhouse. The expectation is always to beat everyone we are playing. This is a big stretch of baseball, including, but not limited to, the Texas trip. When we get back we have Cal Berkeley, another strong team. We have a big three-week span coming up. We all expect to win, and a desire to win. We want to make sure we go out and represent Pepperdine and show teams that we are here to win, and win often.

Q: How important is it to play these big-time teams in the beginning of the season?

A: I think it is huge. It is so important to have games against real strong, tough opponents so that you can be battle-tested. Especially for the freshmen. The young guys coming in don't really know what big-time D1 baseball is all about yet. Our conference is going to be really competitive, but these two weeks are going to really show those guys what high-level college baseball is, because these are the types of teams we are going to be playing in regionals, super regionals, and into the College World Series.

Q: Going forward with the season, what can we expect from the Waves?

A: You can expect us to compete day in and day out. If it is fair to say that you can expect wins, then you can expect wins. I have confidence in this team to go out every single day and get better, and that is definitely going to produce a lot of wins for this program.

Yasmine Robinson-Bacote, a sophomore on the women's basketball team, has had a great season so far with a team-high 14.7 points per game. She's the first Wave to record 10 double-doubles since 2001. She shares her thoughts on the season and what she likes to do off the court:

Yasmine  Robinson-Bacote

Q: How has the season been going so far?

A: It has been going pretty well. We have had our ups and downs like any other team, but we are definitely hitting our stride. We had a good win against San Diego and we a hoping to keep that momentum going forward as we get into the last couple of games of the regular season.

Q: You had a great game against Pacific a few weeks ago with 25 points and 16 rebounds! What helped you to do so well?

A: We needed to have a really good game and it was just the flow of the game. I didn't really know how many points or rebounds I had until the end. I tried to grab the balls as I saw them and take every shot that I could. The team did a great job of finding me and creating open shots for me, which made my job easier. I tried to make their jobs easier by clearing up the boards when I could. Unfortunately, we did not win, but it was a highlight to see that we could play at such a high level.

Q: When talking to you earlier this season, you said that your goal was to be the best teammate possible and to become a better player every day. Have you been able to meet that goal?

A: I have definitely been working toward it. We have a great coaching staff that brings a lot of different things to the table. I have been trying to learn from them every day and be a sponge and absorb everything. I am still learning and growing, but I am definitely taking steps in the right direction in becoming the player that I want to be.

Q: What more are you looking to get from this season?

A: We want to keep working smarter, rather than harder, because most of the time we are working to the best of our abilities, but we have not been working as smart as we should. We are definitely still growing in that aspect, but we really want to finish off the season well. We are going to have to bring our "A" Game. We need to stay focused, take it day by day, and trust the process.

Q: What is your favorite memory from this season so far?

A: I would have to say the Gonzaga win is still up there. We came in with a hungry mentality and we still have that mentality. It seemed like everything clicked for us and everybody gave a little something. Everybody played so well. It was one of the best games of the season and we got the outcome we wanted. It was a big upset, so it was definitely the highlight of the season.

Q: Looking forward to next season, what are you hoping carries over from the current season?

A: I think we need to continue our progression and not being comfortable with where we are right now. We are making good strides. Maturing is something we have to work on collectively because we will have to look for leadership not only in Kim (Jacobs), but in other players. There is going to be a lot of stepping up from me and my other teammates to try to fill that void that Allie (Green) has been for us. 

Q: You have 10 double-doubles so far this year. What skills have you been working on to remain so consistent?

A: I think it is more about being aggressive, going after the ball and not taking any plays off. Often times you take a play off and miss those rebounds or extra points. For me it has been all about staying consistent and focused and making sure I know what my responsibility is on the court.

Q: Do you have a pre-game ritual before each game?

A: Allie and I blast music, scream at the top our lungs, and jump around. We get our pre-game sweat right there before we actually get out on the court. That is something fun we do and I am really going to miss that next year.

Q: What would a perfect day look like for you?

A: I wouldn't get up at 8 a.m., that would be the first thing. I would wake up about 10 o'clock, get breakfast, watch a little Netflix, and then drive down PCH playing some music and relaxing. Then I would come back and hang out with the team, eat lunch, watch a little more Netflix, eat dinner, watch a little more Netflix and finally go to bed. That would be a perfect day for me.

Q: When you aren't playing basketball or studying, what do you like to do?

A: Definitely hang out with friends, which is mostly the team. We really like to hang out a lot. I like to go out to eat, go to movies and watch Netflix. I really enjoying relaxing.

Men's Tennis Update: Stefan Menichella

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As the men's tennis season continues on, senior Stefan Menichella takes a lighthearted look at how the idea of gratitude makes him a better tennis player:

Stefan  Menichella

Stefan Menichella is the name and tennis is my game. Due to the fact that as a busy student-athlete I never felt the need to voluntarily accept yet another homework assignment, this is my first time writing for the Competing with Purpose blog. However, I am now a second-semester senior and am taking only two classes, so if you or your friends have any homework you don't want to do, just send it my way. Just kidding! All right. Done with my lighthearted intro. Let's get philosophical, shall we?

One cannot explain to an incoming freshman just how much they will learn, grow and develop during these four years. Freshmen, many of you might as well be embryos right now. As a veteran student-athlete on his way out of the college sports scene, if I were to give these young impressionable ears any piece of advice it would be to remain grateful.

Being grateful is the most enjoyable form of acceptance. It's difficult to be worried about past mistakes or future challenges or to be angry with yourself or anyone else when you embody a strong sense of gratitude. Gratitude requires you to expand your perspective and allows you to reside in the present moment.

You may be thinking something along the lines of, "Stefan, enough with this hippie nonsense. Shouldn't you be writing about tennis instead of telling me how to feel?" To answer your question ... probably. But patience, I'm getting to that.

With my college tennis career nearing its end, I have only recently begun to feel truly grateful for each day, practice, match and workout. I have begun to recognize that each day is another opportunity to improve and enjoy doing something I love alongside my closest friends. I'm alive, in good physical condition, above-average looking (up for debate), and I get to run, compete and hit a fuzzy yellow tennis ball several hours a day with my boys!

Largely due to this newly discovered feeling of gratitude, I have been playing matches with more calmness, focus and confidence. This isn't just me talking, however. There is conclusive scientific evidence from MRI scans of the brain that shows that the feeling of gratitude has a significant positive impact on our nervous system. Gratitude allows tension to exit your muscles and stress to leave your brain. As it turns out, these effects have a profoundly positive impact on one's tennis game.

Gratitude helps you play more freely with less concern about results and other things out of your control. This frees up your mind to focus on things that you can control such as strategy or technique. If you made it this far, I'm going to leave you with this: sports and life, in general, become significantly more enjoyable when you are grateful and see everything from a broader perspective.

Allie Green is the only senior on the Pepperdine women's basketball team. As her final games at Pepperdine are approaching - including Saturday's home finale against rival LMU - she reflects on the past four years and gives advice to her teammates:

Allie  Green

Q: What are your thoughts on the season so far?

A: I definitely think that we have surprised people with some games that we have won. We still are very young, so that shows sometimes. However, I think that we are growing, developing and figuring out what we need to do in the last few games.

Q: What are your plans for after graduation?

A: I want to play basketball for as long as I can, so that's the first option. I really want to stay in L.A. and figure my life out from there, but basketball is the first option.

Q: Since Kim Jacobs will be the only senior on the team next year, do you have any advice for her?

A: I would tell her don't panic because there is a lot of stress that comes with being the only senior. It is just like being a point guard on the team. You get a lot of things blamed on you because everything runs through you, but you have to take it with a chip on your shoulder and realize the things you need to do in order for your team to be successful.

Q: What is your favorite memory from this season?

A: Beating Gonzaga. That was big. That was big personally because we had never beaten them before. We were always looked at as the underdogs and they are considered the top of our conference, so it was huge.

Q: How are you feeling about Senior Day this weekend?

A: I am excited. I am probably not going to get emotional, but emotions will be running through my mind and body. I don't want to focus on the fact that it is my last night playing here. I just want to make sure I do all I can for my team to get the win.

Q: What do you think you will miss the most about Pepperdine?

A: My teammates. All the teammates that I have had these past few years. I am with them 24/7 and we have so many memories. That will be the hardest for me.

Q: What was your favorite season over the past four years and why?

A: I would say this one is probably my favorite season. Even though our record doesn't show it, in our practices and when we are all together, it is just so different. There is chemistry on and off the court. I just really have loved it this year.

Q: What have the past years meant to you?

A: A lot. The past four years here have really helped me grow as a person. I have been through a lot and I learned who truly is there for me and who isn't. Everyone here is so helpful with the smallest things and I am really going to miss that.

Q: What advice would you give to your teammates for next year?

A: I would tell them to keep pushing. Even when we get down, keep our heads up. Never giving up is the biggest thing for me because the past four years have been really tough record-wise and we have come so close to winning games. We just need to find that little extra push. I would encourage them to keep trying to change the culture and keep a positive mindset.

Baseball Q&A: Ryan Wilson

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Ryan Wilson, a junior left-handed pitcher for the Waves, tells us about the upcoming season and how the Waves have been preparing and waiting for the season to finally come. The Waves take on Saint Joseph's this weekend at Eddy D. Field Stadium.
Ryan  Wilson

Q: Baseball season is finally upon us. What is the excitement level in the team right now leading up to the first series of the year?

A: We are really excited to finally get out on the field and showcase what we have been working on this year. It has been a long offseason, but a good one, and I think that I speak for everyone in saying that we just want to start playing.

Q: What were preparations like this year compared to the other years you have been here? Anything different that was done that you felt had a really positive impact on the team?

A: This year, the position players ran with the pitchers in the mornings. It was definitely a positive impact because it really helped with the team camaraderie more so than past years, where our morning practices are separate.

Q: How does the semester break affect the performance of the team? It must be a welcome break, but there is always the fear that having that break can be a negative aspect to the team.

A: There is definitely a potential fear to it. However, everyone on the team knows that there is a job to do during that break. We take it upon ourselves to make sure we get the work in to prepare for when we come back to school. I also think that the motivation of being able to start playing games after break makes the break a little more focused on baseball, so when we come back, there isn't a lull in practices where we have to readjust to baseball again.

Q: How have the freshmen meshed with the team? Were they able to fit in right away? And the transfers as well?

A: All the freshmen proved that they're going to fight for the rest of the guys and you're going to see a lot of freshmen come in big for us this year, which will show how much work they've put in to help this team win. The same goes for the two transfers we have. Unfortunately, Duncan McKinnon will have to sit out a year, but both he and Austin Gehle, the other transfer, know their roles and are doing everything they can to help the team. Gehle for sure is going to come up big for the team during the year.

Q: You played in the Cape Cod League this past summer. What was that experience like?

A: It was fun. I learned a lot. There was definitely a lot of baseball. I think that the best part about playing in the Cape is the friends you make. I for sure made some life-long friends while playing. The coaches were incredible too. Really high quality baseball with awesome people around you.

Q: What were some of the things that you learned in the Cape that have really helped you out so far this year?

A: Our pitching coach was kind of a guru about pitching. Personally, he taught me a lot of different grips on the ball in order to make it spin a certain way. I have definitely been using the grips he showed me to make the ball move to where I want it to move, even within the same pitches.

Q: The Waves did not make an NCAA Regional last year after making one the previous two years. How motivating has that been so far in wanting to get back to the postseason?

A: I think it will make it just that much better if and when we do make it. At the same time, we are taking the year every day at a time, and taking the season pitch by pitch and game by game in order to be as successful as we want to be. We can't look to the past and use that as motivation because we need to look to the future and focus on the job ahead of us.

Q: You are pegged to win WCC Pitcher of the Year by D1 Baseball. Does that motivate you to fulfill that, or do you try keep that off of your mind?

A: Again, it is motivating, but those types of things take care of themselves if you stick to your approach and keep the same game plan day after day. If I focus on trying to fulfill that idea, I am going to get away from my game plan, so I keep my mind off of it.

Q: Finally, with the season just around the corner, what can we expect from the Waves this year?

A: I think that you can expect some fun baseball. When we play our Pepperdine baseball, it is hard for any team in the country to beat us. If you come to the games, expect to see some really good baseball, and expect to see guys showing off what we have been working on and guys being really successful in doing so.

James Gehrels, a senior on the men's volleyball team, has truly made waves throughout his time here at Pepperdine. Besides his achievements on the court, he's a three-time Pepperdine scholar-athlete, co-president of the Waves Leadership Council and a member of the NCAA national Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. His most recent accomplishment was being named NCAA Division I SAAC Vice Chair. He talks a little bit about what this means as well as his future goals and plans:

James  Gehrels

Q: So what does this position of NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Vice Chair look like for you?

A: As Vice Chair of DI SAAC I work with three other student-athletes and some NCAA staff members to help guide, plan and facilitate everything that the 32 student-athletes on the committee do. These responsibilities include planning out meetings and strategically prioritizing our goals and objectives for the next year. 

Q: What does it mean to you to have this title?

A: I am extremely humbled and excited to have been elected to this position. I have represented the student-athletes of Pepperdine and the West Coast Conference for the past two and a half years and now to be able to serve them in this role for another year is an incredible honor. 

Q: How did attaining this title come about?

A: At the most recent NCAA Convention in Nashville there were elections that were held for vice chairs for this coming year and I was fortunate enough to be selected by my fellow committee members.

Q: What are you most looking forward to accomplish within the position?

A: I'm most looking forward to being able to have an even greater impact on the lives of all Division I student-athletes both current and in the future as well. The decisions that our group helps make will impact the lives of those to come, which is an incredible honor but also a great responsibility.

Q: Since this is your senior year, is this a position you'll pass on to someone else after you graduate?

A: This position of Vice Chair isn't something I pass down, however serving as the West Coast Conference representative is something that another student-athlete will be elected to following the 2017-2018 school year. (Note: national SAAC rules allow Gehring to serve as Vice Chair for 2017-18, even after his graduation and final competition as a student-athlete.)

Q: How did being a Wave help you get to such a prestigious national position?

A: I wouldn't be in the position I am today without all of the help and support that I have received from Pepperdine Athletics and the university as a whole. Being able to represent Pepperdine in this way is an incredible experience and something I will be forever grateful for. It truly has given me a platform to have an impact on our campus here in Malibu, but also the ability to spread what makes Pepperdine such an incredible and special place to others around the country. 

Q: What is your favorite memory to date about working with the Pepperdine, conference and/or national SAAC committees?

A: There are so many amazing memories that it is nearly impossible to put my finger on one or another, but a couple that really stick out would be attending NCAA conventions or the NACDA and Affiliates convention, and of course our #RefueltheWaves crowdfunding campaign which raised funds to directly impact our meal and refueling options here in athletics.

Q: Any plans for what you want to do after graduation (and does athletics factor in at all)?

A: I plan to hopefully attend grad school upon graduation and study Sport Management and Business Administration. I ultimately want to get into collegiate athletic administration one day by becoming a director of athletics. I hope to get there by fundraising and building relationships and continuing to improve the student-athlete experience along the way.

Q: Do you have any other reflections as you look back on your time here at Pepperdine?

A: I'm just so thankful for my coaches and administrators here at Pepperdine who have helped open doors for me to be successful well beyond my time here at Pepperdine. Those relationships and friendships I have made will last a lifetime and for that I am forever grateful.

Bria Richardson, a former four-year letterwinner for the Peperdine women's basketball team and a current graduate manager with the Waves, recently attended the NCAA Emerging Leaders Seminar in Indianapolis. She reflects on the experience that she had, and how it helped her understand where she fits in intercollegiate athletics:

Bria  Richardson

Q: You recently got back from the NCAA Emerging Leaders Seminar. Can you explain what exactly it was?

A: The NCAA Emerging Leaders Seminar included graduate assistants and interns at schools in the NCAA, and it was all about introducing us to the world of college athletics.

Q: How did you hear about the conference, and what made you decide that it was something that you were interested in attending?

A: Several administrators at Pepperdine mentioned the seminar to me because they had been a part of it early in their careers as well.

Q: Was there an overarching theme that the NCAA was portraying at the conference?

A: Yes, we talked a lot about personality traits and how they play into the world of intercollegiate athletics and how the traits link to different roles within athletics. A big part of it was learning about yourself in the workplace and finding the strengths and weaknesses in order to use them in the job at hand. The method we used to identify the traits was called the DISC program. In the DISC program, you take a test and answer questions based on how you would react in certain workplace situations. After the test is finished, the program gives you values for each letter in DISC. The D stands for dominant, the I for inspiring, the S for supportive and the C for cautious. It is very similar to the Meyers-Briggs test or the Strengths-Finder test.

Q: What were some of the largest takeaways that you personally had from the conference?

A: We learned about the NCAA rules that are being talked about and implemented. A couple of the big ones that really stuck with me are the time management plan and the travel day rules. Learning about the rules and how they become implemented was really cool to see. A really great thing the NCAA is doing is giving the student-athletes a say in the proceedings through SAAC (the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee). The biggest takeaway that I had was that they are now listening to the athletes a lot more than they previously were.

Q: How big is the voice of the SAAC in these proceedings?

A: It seems to be very instrumental. SAAC was really pushing the rules that are being talked about and implemented, and it seems like the NCAA is really listening to its student-athletes.

Q: In your current position of graduate manager for the women's basketball team, how can you use what you learned at the conference to benefit the team?

A: Definitely understanding peoples' behavior styles. It's pretty funny because now when I talk to the girls, the letters from the DISC become apparent in the girls. I find myself thinking about which letter each girl would be more dominant in while speaking to them. It has also been helpful in finding their strengths and weaknesses and knowing how to talk to them in order to make them more successful as athletes, but more importantly as human beings. Being able to know how to speak to different people through the DISC program is something that I can see myself using for a long time. I think that a lot of people would benefit form taking the test, not just in sports settings, but also in other work settings, and even family settings.

Q: Thinking back to your playing days at Pepperdine, was there anything that you learned at the conference that you wish you would have known while you were still playing?

A: I wish I would have known how important SAAC is. I think that had I known what kind of voice it gives student-athletes, I would have become more involved than I already was. I served on one of the committees within the campus, but knowing what I do now about how much of a voice they have in the lives of the student-athletes, I would have taken up a leadership position and tried to make even more of a difference.

Q: How do you think that this experience will make you a better leader as you continue your career into collegiate athletics?

A: Listening to our keynote speaker and the other speakers, I think that I have learned the point of being in intercollegiate athletics. It's about the love of the students. It isn't about the money, it isn't about the titles. I think that having the experience that I did, and hearing from different people from all sides of athletics, whether it be the academics side or the compliance side and everything in between, hearing their stories was the best way to learn about what they did. I think that the stories are the best way we can learn about how to do our job in athletics more efficiently.

Q: If you knew someone else who was thinking about attending the conference, would you give them a recommendation to attend? If so, why?

A: I highly recommend it. One of the other takeaways that I had was you get to learn about all the other sectors in athletics. Whether it was academics, student development, compliance, marketing, it was all there. You get to kind of find your niche when you hear about all of the other types of jobs there are in collegiate athletics. Within the conference, there were breakout sessions, where you got to choose the career that you were currently in, which for me was academic support because they didn't have a session specifically for coaching, and I also work with athlete support, and also a session for jobs that you might be interested in going forward. I was able to confirm that I am definitely interested in academic support and student development, but I also learned that the marketing side of things is not something that I could see myself doing. It helps you get a feel for which aspect of intercollegiate athletics is really for you.

Senior swimmer Kelly Presper tells us about the PCSC Championships that started today. She talks through the prep work the team has put in, and also about her four years here at Pepperdine:

Kelly  Presper

Q: How did preparations go for the PCSC Championships?

A: We are just getting to the end of our taper right before conference starts. We started about two weeks ago. When we taper, we ramp up the swimming and the number of yards a couple of weeks before conference, and then leading up to conference, we hold off on the number, so we aren't tired going into the biggest meet of the year. Our taper has been awesome this year. I think the team has really taken the bull by the horns and is motivated to do well at Conference.

Q: What races will you be swimming?

A: I will be swimming the 100 IM, 200 IM and 100 breaststroke. I am really excited for the 100 IM being my last race this year. It is the race that I began swimming when I was 8 years old, and now to be able to swim it in my final collegiate meet will be awesome. This is the first year that the conference has allowed the 100 IM in the meets, so it is awesome to have it be the final race of my career.

Q: What are your personal goals for the conference finals this week?

A: This week, I just want to swim as best as I can and leave it all in the pool. You are always trying to go for best times, and this is definitely the meet to accomplish that.

Q: You said that you have been swimming since you were 8 years old. Why did you choose swimming as a sport to compete in?

A: It's actually a pretty funny story. When I was young, my next-door-neighbors were signing their kids up for swimming and convinced my parents to do the same. I started swimming at the local YMCA during the summer. I quickly realized that there was a difference between the kids who swam year round and the kids who only swam during the summer league. I told my parents that I wanted to be as fast as the kids who swam year round, so I also started swimming year round.

Q: As a team, what do you feel are the goals for the meet, and how confident do you feel that they will be accomplished?

A: I think that our goal as a team is to swim as best we can. We have been working so hard this year. We are such a young team, so I think that being able to keep the spirits high during the meet and swim as best as we can will be the ultimate goal. We as a team are much more focused on supporting each other than the results. We want to keep the team spirit up and keep the morale up. As long as we do that, the results will fall into place.

Q: As a senior this year, what has your leadership role been like? Has it been difficult to be the leader that the team has needed?

A: I don't think that fulfilling the leadership role has been too tough. As a senior, being able to see the girls grow so much this year has been so rewarding and so much fun. The leadership role wasn't so much having to push people individually, but rather to bring the team together and compete to the highest possible level that we could.

Q: This is your final meet as a Wave. What have these last four years meant to you not only as an athlete, but also as a person?

A: So much. Last night, I was trying to comprehend everything that has happened the last four years, and I couldn't put it in to words. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been a student-athlete here at Pepperdine and to be able to represent Pepperdine the past four years. I have been given so much and have been able to take so much from the knowledge of my peers.

Q: After all is said and done with the PCSC Championships, and your final meet as a Wave is completed, what do you think the emotions will be like?

A: Right now, I am excited to end this chapter of my life. I think that I will always keep swimming, but I am ready to go to conference, perform as best as I can and leave it all in the pool. I think I just want to go out as best as I can. I definitely think it will be bittersweet. I will definitely grieve about it later on, but for now, I am excited about the next four days.

Women's Swim/Dive Update: Erin Himes

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Erin Himes is about to take part in her final college meet this week at the PCSC Championships. Before the event, which begins Wednesday at East Los Angeles College, the senior swimmer reflects on her four years for us:

Erin  Himes

Heading into my final swim meet, I've thought a lot about how swimming has defined my last four years at Pepperdine. Growing up, I never thought that swimming in college would be something I'd be good enough to do and I really never wanted to do it. As I got closer to the end of high school, my times started to drop and I started to see collegiate swimming as a possibility. Pushed forward by a coach who encouraged me to pursue college swimming as a way to find community, I took an interest in Pepperdine.

The minute I met Coach Nick, I was sold. Pepperdine, for me, was the whole package: a close swim team, a beautiful location, quality academics and the opportunity to study abroad despite being a student-athlete. Here, I knew I wouldn't miss out on being a college student just because I was an athlete.

While that's ultimately been very true, I am continually amazed by how huge of a role swimming has played in my life. I did get the chance to study abroad for a summer, to go on Project Serve trips and to form close relationships with my professors, but the impact of being a student-athlete has been far more fulfilling than I could have imagined. I've gained years of wisdom and insight from the greatest and most engaged coaching staff I've ever encountered. And I've gotten to watch a team grow and develop much more than I ever anticipated.

These past four years have been definitive for the future of swimming at Pepperdine. I've watched each year as recruits have gotten faster and faster and more passionate about swimming. I've been pushed harder by each class of freshmen that has come to our team. To be a part of such an incredible era of growth has been a blessing and I look forward to watching this program thrive even more in the future.

When I was a high school senior, I wasn't sure what swimming would mean to me in the future. As a college senior, it now means much, much more than best times and scoring points. Swimming as a Wave has given me purpose and shaped me into much more than just a strong athlete. To get to spend every day with people who want to succeed and want to see each other succeed is an experience like no other, and I head into this final meet knowing that whatever happens in the pool, my college swimming career has been the most fulfilling commitment of my life.

Senior swimmer Laura Graziano reflects on the final home meet of her career, her time at Pepperdine, and what it has meant to be a Wave: 

Laura  Graziano

Q: You just finished your last home meet as a Wave. What are the emotions running through your head?

A: It hasn't quite hit me yet. We had a really great senior meet, and it was a lot of fun, so it hasn't quite clicked that it was our last meet at the pool. I don't think that I am feeling that emotional yet, just because I feel as though I am in denial, but it did seem like a really great way to end our season at home.

Q: How would you gauge the success of the team at the final home meet?

A: It was quick, just us and a few LMU girls, so it was great to swim a lot of races and enter in some events that we wouldn't normally enter. It was fun to change it up and have fun before the conference meet. I think overall, the atmosphere was enjoyable and exciting.

Q: Going into the PCSC Championships, what have preparations been like, and how confident is the team going into it?

A: We are starting our taper, so everyone is excited about that. We get to swim fewer yards or take more breaks in order to prepare. We are feeling confident. We have the most depth that we have ever had, at least in the last four years, so there are a lot of strengths on the team that we can pull from and use in a lot of different races. Knowing that, we have a ton of confidence going into conference.

Q: What are the team goals for the meet? Also, what are your personal goals for this final meet of your career?

A: As a team, we want to be in the top three to five or so. We placed really well last year, so as a team we want to be able to go out with a strong note again this year. Individually, I want to get some more best times. I want to finish my last races ever with the feeling that I've left it all in the pool. We are definitely excited, and think that we are pretty tough to beat this year.

Q: You, along with the five other seniors, were honored this past weekend for senior day. What has it meant to have those five other women on this journey with you as a Pepperdine Wave?

A: They have definitely made my time at Pepperdine on the swim team. Looking back, all of my favorite memories have been with those five girls, so they have shaped my career, both as a swimmer and also just as a Pepperdine student. I think all of my successes are due to them, and I am so thankful that I have had them along this journey with me.

Q: As you reflect on your time at Pepperdine, can you pick out the single-most memorable moment in your career?

A: Outside of the pool, probably the trip that I took to Fiji through IP. It was a medical missions trip, and I really loved being there for a month and be able to serve in that community. It was so different than anything that I have experienced before. My favorite swimming memory has been being able to see how our dynamic has changed over the years that I have been here. Each year, no matter how big the team is, or who is on the team, it has been awesome to see how we have come together as a team. Not really a specific memory, but rather a lot of memories that have contributed to my career as a swimmer here.

Q: What has being a Pepperdine swimmer been like, and how has it affected the course of your life as a person?

A: It has helped me learn discipline for sure. Growing up, I have always swam, but that was a little different because the coursework wasn't the same in middle school and high school. Balancing a course-load from Pepperdine and being on the swim team has made me learn a lot of self-discipline and time management. A lot of great things that I have learned here will also be really applicable later on in my life. Pepperdine has also helped me learn better values. Our coach is such an awesome man, and he always has so much wisdom to share with us. He is not only helping us train physically, but also is training us to become better people.

Q: Thinking back to four years ago when you came in as a freshman, what were your expectations of Pepperdine? Throughout your years here, has Pepperdine lived up to the expectations that you had?

A: You always hear that college is the best four years of your life, so I think that I had high expectations. I was thinking that because it was college, that I needed it to be an amazing experience. Especially hearing about the reputation that Pepperdine has both academically and athletically. I had high expectations for the swim team as well, because they were on the way up after almost being terminated from the university. I definitely had high expectations. Those high expectations have definitely been met. Thanks to the team, I have been able to be a part of a unique community all four years, which has shaped Pepperdine for me. Not only that, but being able to meet so many people through my classes and becoming close with a lot of the faculty members, has definitely gone above and beyond what I could have ever hoped for.

Q: What do you hope the legacy of this year's senior class will be for future Pepperdine swimmers?

A: We have had a great sense of leadership this year, I think. I hope that the rising seniors can carry that role and can make sure that everybody on the team feels included and that they belong to something. I think that we have done a good job so far, so I hope that it continues to be a comfortable environment in which all the girls would be able to push themselves to become better swimmers, but also better people.

Kevin Hempy, a senior on the men's basketball team, has had an interesting journey with basketball. He spent his first year at Westmont before transferring, first tried to walk onto the Waves' team as a sophomore, and eventually made the team this season, just in time for his last year of college. He talks about what the journey has been like and what being on the team has meant for him:

Kevin  Hempy

Q: So you initially started your college career at Westmont. Did you try to play basketball there too? 

A: Yeah, I spent my freshman year at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, I tried out for the team there following my freshman year but I didn't make it.

Q: Has basketball always been an interest of yours?

A: Basketball has always been an important part of my life and something that I have really enjoyed as well as learned from. I played from an early age growing up and in high school but didn't play my first three years of college. In retrospect I'm thankful for the different experiences I had during that time, but basketball was never too far from my mind and I played pickup when I could.

Q: Between transferring here as a sophomore, trying to walk on the team, and then trying again and making it shortly before this season, what did you do in between?

A: Between not making the team as a sophomore and then making it my senior year, I studied abroad in Heidelberg and Africa, so for the first part of that time I didn't play any basketball, but toward the end of last school year I began to think about trying out again this year.

Q: What did you work on improving during this time and what do you think ultimately made the difference?

A: My sophomore year, one of the reasons I didn't end up making the team was a lack of strength. So I tried to improve on this in preparing to try out again, but also feel that just getting older definitely helped with that as well. 

Q: What led you to make the decision to try again?

A: I decided to try out again in the midst of a conversation with a friend here at Pepperdine, Michael Veloz. He encouraged me not to worry about the potential of failure but to focus on pursuing the things I enjoy in life. I knew I loved playing so I decided to go ahead and give it another shot.

Q: How was this whole process overall for you?

A: The process of trying out and joining the team has been a great experience. The people involved in the program -- from the players to coaches and everyone else -- are all talented and quality people and that's made it very enjoyable and really worthwhile.

Q: What does it mean to you to be part of this team now? What has the experience been like?

A: Being a part of the team means a lot to me, Pepperdine in general and basketball are two of my favorite things and I feel very fortunate to have the chance to merge them together. Also, it's just a great group of guys on the team. 

Q: You got to play some important minutes at Pacific recently. What was that like for you? 

A: Playing at Pacific I noticed that the pace of play and physicality was elevated a level even just from practice. So it was a good learning experience for me and I'm very thankful for the chance to play. 

Q: What's your major and what's the plan for post-graduation, if you have one right now? Does basketball factor into the plan at all?

A: I am majoring in sport administration here at Pepp. I'm unsure as of now what I want to do after graduation but if basketball is able to factor into it in any way I would love that. 

Q: What has your whole Pepperdine experience meant to you?

A: I'm definitely very glad I ended up at Pepperdine. I'm really thankful for the different things I have gotten to try here, but more importantly the relationships and people I've gotten to know while here.

Rachel Wilt, a junior swimmer, reflects on the year that has been for the Waves. She's looking forward to Saturday's final home meet and the upcoming conference meet. She also tell us about the seniors and how they have helped her class become the leaders that will be needed for next year:

Rachel  Wilt

Q: Going into the final meets of the year, what are preparations like?

A: Right now, we are getting ready to finish the season and we are working really hard before we start our taper for conference. These past couple weeks have been really tough, but also really rewarding, so everyone is looking forward to starting our taper.

Q: You mention a taper. What exactly is that and why is there a need for it?

A: We work really hard all season, pushing ourselves as much as we can. For conference, we back off the training a little bit so we can have the best chance to race at our most peak performance in order to get the best time possible in our best event.

Q: Are the preparations for the last meets of the year any different than the preparations for meets earlier in the season?

A: Not really, to be honest. A lot of us do swim different events for the final meet before conference than we do for conference, but other than that, the preparations are very similar.

Q: As you reflect on the season, how would you gauge the success of the team this year?

A: We have a really strong team this year with a lot of depth, which is nice. One of the benefits of having such a big team is the depth of our squad and having good swimmers in every event. It is really exciting to think about what we can do during the conference meet.

Q: Obviously there have been ups and downs during the year. What do you think was your favorite event of the year so far?

A: Going to Morro Bay, when we swim against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, is always really fun. We kind of make it of a vacation in a sense which is always nice.

Q: Which events do you plan on swimming in during the conference meet, and how will they differ from the meet before conference?

A: In the meet before conference, I plan on swimming the 50m free and 100m breaststroke, among some others that haven't really been decided yet. During conference, I will swim just the 50m free and the 100m free, so I am not too different in the events that I swim.

Q: Why do some girls swim different events in the meet before conference?

A: Some people like to not swim the same events right before we taper so they don't psych themselves out of the event. The girls want to give themselves the best chance to swim their fastest in their best event at conference.

Q: What are your expectations both personally and for the team for the conference meet?

A: I really hope that we beat LMU. I think that we are good enough, and we came so close last weekend, that I think in conference we will have the drive and the push to beat them. As for personally, I have some goals to drop time and do the best that I can to help the team.

Q: The conference meet coming up will be the last meet for your six seniors. What have those seniors meant to the team this year in terms of leadership?

A: They have been huge. The other juniors and I have been thinking a lot about how much they have done for us, and how much we will miss having them around next year when we are seniors.

Q: Do you think that the seniors of this year have helped prepare you for your senior season when you are the ones the younger swimmers will look up to for guidance?

A: Absolutely. They have done such a good job at guiding us and showing us what it means to be the leaders of this program.

Pepperdine senior Jeremy Major became the men's basketball team's all-time leader in assists last week, surpassing the old record of 450 set more than 30 years ago. Yet the season has also been a challenging one for the team as a whole, plagued with some tough injuries. Major reflects on his recent accomplishment as well as his senior year:

Jeremy  Major

Q: So you're now the school's all-time leader in assists! How does that feel? 

A: It is a great accomplishment but more than anything I thank the man upstairs who continues to bless me throughout my life. I also thank all my former and current teammates that I've played with because without them this accomplishment wasn't possible.

Q: What does setting that record now officially mean to you?

A: In terms of my career at Pepperdine it does mean a lot to have set this record at this amazing university. It feels great to leave a positive print on the program before I depart. 

Q: What was the moment like for you right after setting that record?

A: The moment was more of a realization of like, man, I really just broke a record that has lasted 33 years. I called my mom and my bro Shawn Olden right after and just spoke and enjoyed the moment with them. It was awesome. 

Q: This has been a tough season with injuries, what's kept you personally and the team going strong? 

A: More than anything just staying positive throughout it all. I believe everything you go through in life is for a reason. There has been a lot of adversity and the challenges really tell you about yourself. 

Q: How hard has it been to lose Amadi Udenyi to a season-ending injury? 

A: It has been really tough without Amadi. That is my brother on and off the court and to not have him around has been hard. But it is always good to see him in good spirits when he comes around because he brings a different type of energy to our team. It really hasn't set in yet that this was my last year playing with him, but I know it will once it's all said and done. What is crazy is he has a very good chance of becoming the all-time assist leader next year as well! We've been close ever since we've gotten here so he's like family to me. He's been through a lot when it comes to injury, but I am glad that he will be able to return next year and continue his dream.

Q: How are you helping the young players get better? 

A: It's been awesome. I do my best to understand that they are freshmen and just try to teach the young boys as much as I can. It has been fun, though, on and off the court with them. They are really good guys that make it exciting to come to practice every day. Between Knox (Hellums) and Elijah (Lee) they make me laugh almost every time I am with them.

Q: What are you looking forward to for the rest of this season, especially since it's your senior year?

A: I am looking forward to us just competing and playing as hard as we can. If we do those things each game I can live with whatever the results are. But I am also going to just enjoy these final moments.

The Pepperdine women's track team competed in their first-ever indoor track meets last year. While all the indoor track meets up until now have been held at Northern Arizona, this Friday they'll be heading to Washington and the UW Invitational. Claudia Rodriguez, a captain of the women's track team, describes what the experience has been like, what she's looking forward to for the upcoming meet, and reflects on her senior year in general:

Claudia  Rodriguez

Q: Last year was the first time for indoor track. Now that it's the second time around, is it any different? 

A: It's definitely different this time around. Last year indoor was a new experience for pretty much all of us. We didn't know what to expect, but now coming back for the second time, we all had a better idea of how the meet was going to go. We all knew it was our first meet and we competed just three days after we came back from break, so we all just wanted to go into the meet, see where we were at, and have fun.

Q: At this point you've only run indoor at Northern Arizona, but since the next indoor meet is at Washington, are you excited about running indoor somewhere new?

A: I am so excited about running in Washington! Personally, I've never been to the Pacific Northwest, so this is going to be a fun experience. This is a very fast meet, so the competition will definitely push us to run some fast times.

Q: What are you looking forward to in general about the meet and what goals are you setting?

A: Like I said, this meet is fast. It's still early in the season, but I am hoping to run some good races in Seattle. This is a great opportunity to run against some amazing competition.

Q: What have you liked so far about running indoor?

A: Indoor is a great way to get the season started. It's a good indicator of where you are and helps you realize what needs to be done for outdoor in order to reach your goals. And traveling with the team is always a good time. We have a lot of fun together!

Q: What's it been like running for Pepperdine & running for coaches like Robert Radnoti and Venus Jewett?

A: I've learned a lot running for Pepperdine. Originally, I didn't plan on running in college, but now I can't imagine not running. My teammates are the best, and Coach Rad and Coach V work really hard to make us the best athletes and individuals we can be. I've had to sacrifice a lot for the team, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Running for Pepperdine has honestly been one of the greatest joys of my life.

Q: What has the whole Pepperdine experience been like for you? 

A: I'm not going to lie, it's been tough going to school so far away from home, but I've been afforded a lot of great opportunities here at Pepperdine. The chance to run here has been great, I'm getting a great education, and I feel confident that both my schooling and athletic training are going to serve me well in the future.

Q: So you also work in the athletics video production crew. What is that like and what do you enjoy about that? 

A: I love working in the athletics video production crew! I love all sports (even if I can't play them), so having a job where I get to be involved with the other sports is fun!

Q: What's your major and what are your plans for life post-Pepperdine? Is running involved in that future?

A: I'm an integrated marketing communications major and I am hoping to work in the music industry after graduation. I'll probably move back home to Nashville and try and find a job there. As of right now, running professionally isn't in the picture, but you never know. I'd love to help coach a team if at all possible. Regardless of it I'm running professionally or not, I hope to be able to stay active by running and lifting.

Senior swimmer Kathrine Kuhlmann talks to us about her time as a Pepperdine student-athlete, and how the semester break affects the team heading into the final meets of the school year, including the upcoming PCSC Championships:

Kathrine  Kuhlmann

Q: The Waves were just at a meet hosted by LMU. How do you feel that meet went as a team?

A: It went really well! We were back and forth between first and second for the entire meet, so we were really excited, and had a lot of good energy. It was a really good precursor for conference because we were super supportive of one another and cheering for every girl on the team the entire time, which is what we need to get through a four-day meet like conference.

Q: How do you think that you will be able to keep up that energy going into the conference meet (February 8-11)?

A: It is kind of a good thing that we took second to LMU this weekend because falling by that small of a margin is going to get us even more excited for conference. We know that we can beat them, and we will have that feeling and that fight to beat them in conference.

Q: With the sport being a split season, with competitions during both the fall and the spring, how did the semester break affect the outcome of the meet?

A: I think that all of us were really ready to be back in the pool competing. We all went back home and trained with our club teams over break, so it was nice to be back with our own teams and be able to support one another. I think that was a big reason why we were able to rally behind each other. We had been apart for two weeks, so it was really nice to be back together as a team again.

Q: What was your training like during the break?

A: It was rough. I did early morning sessions as well as late-night sessions with my club team back home. For me, the break wasn't really too much of a break, because I was training for two hours every morning, training every night for two hours, and then eating and sleeping in between. Training was extremely tough back at home, and it is really nice to be back in Malibu training with my team, rather than my old club team.

Q: Did the cold weather of Missouri during the winter months affect you wanting to train over the break? And if so, how did you push yourself to get in the pool despite the cold?

A: Oh, absolutely. It made it so hard to get out of bed in the morning. You are bundled up in blankets, keeping warm, but you have to get up and go jump into a cold pool, which is an awful feeling. But knowing that conference is coming up, and that the biggest part of our season was after break, really gave me the motivation to get out of bed and into the water. Also, this is the end of my career as a swimmer, so knowing that it is only another couple of weeks with my club team that I have been a part of since middle school, gave me the motivation to finish with them on a high note.

Q: How did you come to be a swimmer? Was it something that you were always interested in?

A: I have been swimming since I was four. I have really bad knees, so it was the only sport that I could do. It started out as physical therapy, but eventually became a passion and a massive part of my life up to this point.

Q: You just mentioned that you weren't able to play any other sports growing up because of your knees. Why is that?

A: I was born with twisted bones, so my kneecaps dislocate all the time. Anything that is hard on your joints, like simply walking, is a challenge for me, so being able to get in the water and only have to use my joints to push off the walls makes it so nice that I get to partake in athletic competition.

Q: You are a part of the Waves Leadership Council. What exactly is the council?

A: On other campuses around the nation, there are organizations called SAAC, but here at Pepperdine, we call it the Waves Leadership Council. We meet twice a month talking about leadership. Last semester we went through a book called Habitudes, by Tim Elmore, which taught us better ways to lead, and how to translate those aspects to our athletic teams. We also are on separate sub-committees. I am a part of the Chaplain committee, so being able to be a part of the spiritual life on campus in our athletic department has been a really cool experience.

Q: This is your fourth and final year as a Pepperdine Wave. What has the student-athlete experience been like for you, and how has Pepperdine affected the course of your life?

A: I have absolutely loved being a student-athlete at Pepperdine. I feel that athletics treats us extremely well. It is such a good community, with so many friends. I have also made a lot of connections through Pepperdine athletics with all the opportunities that they have provided. With every Bible study and every meeting and leadership meeting, there is so much that I have learned to be able to be a leader in so many other aspects of my life.

Keyari Sleezer, a sophomore on the Pepperdine women's basketball team, is driven on and off the court, and her love for her family and teammates shines through her. She shares her thoughts on her season so far and her goals for the future:

Keyari  Sleezer

Q: How are you feeling about this season so far? Have you been able to meet your goals so far this season?

A: I think we started out rougher than any of us expected during preseason, but I think that we were able to learn from it and it has made us a lot better. We are on the right path to where we want to be. From not playing much last season, and now being able to play and help the team, has been going toward my goal. My goal is to start and give as much as I possibly can to the team, so I could always do more.

Q: Has this year been different than last year?

A: In the preseason we focused on culture, so we are a lot closer now as a family, especially off the court. We have been working toward how we transfer that culture onto the court.

Q: What are some changes you want to see as the season progresses?

A: I want to see us win a lot of games. I think one of the big things for us is making sure that we are all healthy and everyone focused on the same thing. That is our ultimate goal.

Q: What was the transition from high school to college like for you?

A: My freshman year of high school was pretty bad, so I was really nervous about the transition from high school to college. I expected the worst, so it ended up going way better than I thought it would. I also had to learn a lot more about basketball, rather than just being able to play.

Q: How has having a family of athletes influenced you?

A: Back home we are known as a basketball family because my dad played, which was really awesome.  I was also able to practice a lot with my brother as we were growing up, which helped me get better. My dad actually works in construction, so he built us a half-court basketball court for us to practice on. He also always worked out with me and was always at my games.

Q: Is your goal still to go to medical school?

A: I am technically a business administration major, but I am also pre-med and minoring in Spanish. I want to be a doctor and open my own practice one day.

Q: What is your role on the team?

A: I am playing post this year, so my role has changed a lot. Now my role is to get rebounds, to not let the other team score in the paint, and to get easy buckets for my team. Going from a guard to a post, I am usually faster than the people who are guarding me, so I have to take advantage of those opportunities.

Q: What has been your favorite memory with the team? What are you looking forward to doing with the team?

A: Traveling is always fun. We have some fun stories on the bus. Our team is always singing. We listen to a lot of music and do a lot of karaoke. We have some people on our team who aren't the best singers, but they are the ones who always want to sing. It's really funny and it is a lot of fun! I think we are really young and we are looking to get even better. It is cool because we get to work with the coaches and grow together. I think we have even bigger goals for the seasons to come.

Q: If you could switch places with anyone for a day, who would it be and why?

A: I think it would have to be my dad. He works really hard, so it would be a really hard day. I think it would be really cool because he is one of the people I really look up to. I know what he has gone through, but to actually live a day in his shoes would be eye-opening. I think it would make me appreciate him even more.

Women's Tennis Update: Christine Maddox

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With the spring semester having just begun and the spring tennis season about to get underway, senior Christine Maddox checks in again with another update on what's been happening with the Waves:

 

Christine  Maddox


I can't believe that I am saying this, but I just finished my last first practice day of my college tennis career. It has been a 3 1/2-year whirlwind, and to think that I am beginning my last season playing as a Wave is a lot to take in.

 

To recap this past fall 2016 semester, we gained two wonderful new additions to our squad, Ashley Lahey and Mayar Sherif Ahmed, who have consistently proven that they can bring it on the tennis court. One of our talented sophomores, Luisa Stefani, and my fellow senior, Jean Runglerdkriangkrai, reached the doubles finals of the prestigious All-American Collegiate tournament at the Riviera Country Club which qualified them, as well as Luisa for singles, into the National Indoor Championships in New York. I, along with my doubles partner Mayar, fell short in the quarterfinal round, but would get another chance in the regional tournament to follow.

 

Many of us competed in the Southwest Regional tournament in San Diego in October, and the end result was a resounding sweep for the Waves. Ashley was able to bring the singles title home for the Waves, and my doubles partner Mayar and I were able to take home the doubles title, which automatically qualified all three of us to go to the National Indoor Championships in Flushing Meadows, New York, to compete even further along with Luisa and Jean. During National Indoors, our other brave sophomore Dzina Milovanovic was competing her heart out all by herself in the Jack Kramer Club Invitational and reached the semifinals!

 

National Indoors was a rough turn of events in which many of us were not happy with the way we played, however, it just taught us that success does not just appear out of nowhere without discipline, hard work and a toughness against adversity. I know that this experience will fuel me to push forward and take what I can away from my final season as a Wave.

 

As for the academic portion, this past fall was my hardest semester yet pertaining to classes and the time that they demanded from me. I took two of my hardest sports medicine major courses along with a couple of history classes, and the amount of stress that I felt did not compare to any of my past semester experiences, which I did not think could happen. However, this past semester taught me that perseverance and discipline does not only assist me on the tennis court but in the classroom as well, which has shown me that no goal is too large or grand for me to accomplish.

 

This then brings me to current times. With new rankings having emerged, Mayar and I are ranked #3 in doubles, which excites me even more with the prospects of what this final season could bring. Jean and Luisa are ranked #8 in doubles, which puts two of our doubles teams in the top 10! Luisa, Ashley and Mayar are all ranked in the top 25 in singles (8, 21, and 22) which also makes us a force to be reckoned with, especially with our team ranking clocking in at a solid #3!

 

This coming Thursday, five of us will be competing in the Freeman Memorial tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada, including myself, in which I hope to kick off the spring season right in order to prepare for the approaching dual matches. Our first dual match is against UNLV in the ITA Kickoff Weekend that we will be hosting on the 28th of January, which will launch us into our spring season.

 

I will continue to work hard for my teammates and give Pepperdine all I have for my last season as a Wave, and because no goal is too grand, as I have learned in this past fall semester, I believe that our team can pull off the final win in May if we can keep on working hard with the passion, talent and heart that I know we all have.